The seven electrifying songs on Toronto-based Jessie Reyez’s Kiddo simmer on a bed of heartbreak and intimate storytelling. Jessie’s refreshingly unique persona is evident with the aggressive flow she strikes on the EP’s third track, the hard-hitting “Blue Ribbon.” This is Jessie at her most lyrically confident. The true highlights of this album, however, come from more than just mere lyrical proficiency. Instead, they arise with Jessie’s raw and unique vocal style. On Kiddo, Jessie Reyez does not hold back.
This rawness begins with the opening track, aptly titled “F*ck It.” On this song, Jessie discusses the anger which comes after a difficult breakup, a theme continued throughout the release. The production here is extremely sparse, doing wonders to put Jessie’s voice front-and-centre. Lyrics such as “You’re lucky I didn’t blow your brains out” serve as an uncompromising display of Jesse’s aggression. The next song, however, is a lyrical and tonal 360, as a vulnerable Jessie scratches and cries her way through the emotional drain of an unhealthy relationship. Her vocal performance is a revelation and illustrates her range and diversity.
Jessie’s best-known song, “Figures,” appears at this EP’s midpoint. While the beat and instrumental are somewhat conventional for a heartbroken ballad, Jessie’s vocals, unsurprisingly, save the song from mundanity. “I wish I could hurt you back,” she laments during the song’s chorus, “Love, what would you do if you couldn’t get me back.” These lyrics, as well as those of the EP’s next song, “Gatekeeper,” speak to Jessie’s powerful songwriting abilities. The story of “Gatekeeper,” for instance, details the abuse and mistreatment of women in the music industry, particularly of Jessie’s own experiences with sexism and harassment.
There’s much to love on this EP, from the tight-knit production to Jessie’s soulful vocal performances. Some of her lyrics could do with less of a reliance on overdone sentimentality and balladic cliches — particularly on the final track, “Great One,” where Jessie laments that “Everything is nothing without you.” However, the lyricism of such standouts as “Shutter Island” and “Gatekeeper” more than make up for these lowlights. Kiddo is Jessie Reyez’s debut release, aptly titled to represent her “first child,” as she claims on Twitter. And if this EP is any evidence of what is to come, I can surely say that it is going to be a good one.